Social exclusion has been brought to the forefront of media attention in recent years due to the recent tragedies like campus shootings and cyberbullying on social networking websites. In order to gain a deeper understanding of social exclusion, this study examined the relation between social exclusion and event-related brain potential (ERP) activity. ERPs were collected while participants completed three blocks of the Cyberball paradigm during which they experienced situations of social inclusion, exclusion, and re-inclusion. This well-established paradigm mimics actual social behavior experienced in real-world situations. Results showed larger N2 and smaller P3 amplitudes during throws where participants were excluded compared to when they were included, regardless of the interaction’s overall context (inclusion, exclusion, re-inclusion), suggesting the conflict-driven “neural alarm” and the allocation of attention are determined more by specific events within the interaction rather than the larger context of the social exchange. Further, during the exclusionary interaction, both the N2 and P3 showed larger amplitudes in the earlier stages of exclusion compared to the later stages, suggesting heightened early sensitivity for both components, and P3 amplitude was larger to exclusionary events compared to the two inclusionary interactions, indicating a contextual influence of exclusion. These findings suggest that discrete events occurring during a social interaction may provide additional insights into social exclusion compared to more global “inclusionary” or “exclusionary” classifications of social interactions.
Khatcherian, Stephanie, "Neural Activity During Social Exclusion: An Exploratory Examination" (2011). Honors Projects. 148.